The Nintendo 64 is widely considered to be the downfall of Nintendo’s dominance on the home console market. With its tremendous amount of shovel ware and cartridge based gaming, Nintendo truly sealed their fate with the release of the monolithic Sony PlayStation. The PS1 didn’t need to rely on high graphics capabilities when considering the wellspring of third party developers it had to choose from. Those same gamers who claimed to be Nintendo devotees were now clambering aboard Sony’s new flagship console just so they could play titles like Final Fantasy VII and Legend of Dragoon. But gaming historians know that you cannot simply disavow all that the Nintendo 64 did for the gaming community.
The 64 was the console that unleashed onto the world the genre that came to be known as the 3D platformer. Under the guise of the masterpiece that was Super Mario 64, Nintendo on its own created a new genre that would take home console gaming from the cut and dry world of two dimensional gaming to the interactive three dimensional world of the Mushroom Kingdom. But with any silver lining comes a storm cloud, and as far as hindsight is concerned, Nintendo as a whole was like a river being flooded week after week with low budget junk titles. From Quest 64 to the horrific Superman 64, Nintendo seemed to be like a ship lost at sea when compared to Sony’s think tank.
But in early 2001 came a title that few expected or liked, and that was Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage. Developed by THQ studios and written by Angela Ferraiolo, Aidyn Chronicles follows the story of a young prince named Alaron who is on a journey to find a cure for a poison he incurred while fighting a horde of goblins in the dark woods by his kingdom. The game takes place across a vast array of landscapes, from the protagonist’s home of Castle Gwernia to the dingy tunnels of Erramon, to the arid Jundar city. Alaron’s journey is mythic to say the least, with hints of Tolkein-esque grandiosity sprinkled across the game’s lush landscape. Aidyn Chronicles seems to fit awkwardly in between the end of the Nintendo 64’s lifespan and the dawn of Gamecube. Graphically, Aidyn Chronicles is light years ahead of anything seen up to that point from Nintendo. As many well know the blocky graphical style that plagued many titles in the 64’s library, Aidyn Chronicles does away with that blotched look and gives players a medieval setting that is wrought with highly detailed game sprites and pre-rendered backgrounds.
Aidyn Chronicles was not trying to be a Final Fantasy rip off and in some ways it exceeded its JRPG competitor. Alaron is a fully realized protagonist who is able to move around freely during battle sequences that bestowed upon the game an interactive, rather than passive, experience. Coupled with its unique free roaming battle system is the game’s lively cast of characters. From the warrior Abrecan, to the wise master of magic Godric, Aidyn Chronicles provides players with a plethora of RPG tropes that enhance the game’s overall grandiose adventure.
But when all is said and done, Aidyn Chronicles is not without its faults. A repetitive musical score, lack of voice acting, and a clumsy hit detection system tend to hamper an otherwise fantastical role playing experience. It seems a life time ago when this game was first released onto US shores on March 14th 2001. Over a decade later and one still finds little hidden treasures to unlock in Alaron’s kingdom, such as hidden characters and exclusive weapons found scattered throughout the land of Gwernia. After more than a decade since its initial release, Aidyn Chronicles has yet to be remastered for a modern console. An astonishing truth when one considers how much Nintendo lacks in RPG’s with its latest console, the Switch.
Perhaps like it did once before, Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage will fill in the gaps left by Nintendo’s stubborn policy to promote itself more as a kid friendly party platformer rather than a proponent of more deeper gaming experiences.